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« MusicThinkTank Weekly Recap: The Flute And The Toothed Beast | Main | On-Demand Music Content Now Stands At The Center Of US Recording Industry »

The Tale Of The Flute And The Toothed Beast

The internet can be a cruel place.
Recently, Welsh alt-rock trio The Joy Formidable released their third full length album, ‘Hitch’. Adored for years by critics, it seemed like only a matter of time before TJF before some wanted to knock them off the pedestal their towering rhythms and melodies had allowed them to climb to. Whilst there have been mixed reviews across the board for their latest effort, one review has been thrust to the forefront of discussion, with casualties on either side.
Reviewer Izzie Dyer, of, lamented her disappointment in the album, which the band picked up on after it was posted to their Facebook page and tweeted to them. Dyer failed to identify a flute in one of the tracks, stating that “questionable ‘Underneath The Petal’, incorporating twanging guitars, a random piano, and even some intangible sort of whistling pipe effort manages to snake its way in…”. What followed from TJF’s camp was the following:
Below the line, fans of the band and those who sympathised with Dyer have descended into a very heated, almost bitter debate. It was repeatedly pointed out that Dyer is only 16 years old, and to publicly criticise her in this way was tantamount to bullying, which was in turn countered by arguments that if she was old enough to publish her criticism, then she was old enough to receive it, and that perhaps her editor should have picked up on this and corrected it. There are also those who call in to question the validity of the opinions of critics in this day and age.
It’s easy to get personal when passionate about something, as you could quite easily accuse either side of doing, but this debate does raise some points worth considering; at what point does an artist have to ‘shut up and take it’ to not stick their head above the parapet for PR purposes, and does this diminish their ‘realness’, the so-called danger that used to be associated with rock ‘n’ roll? What is the true value of music journalism in the internet age?
Tackling those points in respective order, it’s difficult to ignore the feeling that rock music has become somewhat of a toothless beast. That sneering, don’t-give-a-s*** anger that attracted people to seminal bands of yesteryear has been replaced by a hopeful “please like us on facebook!”, and bands simply cannot/will not keep up with the internet in terms of timely and focussed social/cultural commentary. If a band were to write a song right now about a current event (say for example Donald Trump’s comments on punishment for women who have had abortions), by the time they record it, their publicist suggests a future release date to account for press releases and reviews, maybe 6 months have passed and the world’s attention has shifted to another scandal, and the track loses any gravitas it would have had at the time. I strongly believe that this is part of the reason why music (and rock music in particular) has taken a back seat in cultural terms, reduced to paint-by-numbers background noise with which to facilitate the sales of cars and phones.
With regards to the second point, I believe that music journalism is as vital, if not more so, than ever. Whilst commenters on the debacle above are quick to point out the internet allows artists to reach far wider audiences than ever before, the sad fact of the matter is that for the most part, it doesn’t work like that. Just because you build it, doesn’t mean they will come. Traditional press aside (I can’t remember the last time I even read a review in a music magazine unless I was already emotionally invested in that artist), the fact of the matter is that music blogs have followers, often thousands of people who trust their opinions and will use them as a means to find new music, and as far as artists are concerned, they should be considered one of the most lucrative ways to reach new audiences. I will never understand the desire of a music journalist to shoot down a body of work that an artist has poured their hearts into (as far as I’m concerned, if you don’t like it, leave it, in the big picture that will speak as loud as any words), but to diminish their importance is ludicrous. Bands often lambast the lack of support for independent music…THESE ARE THOSE PEOPLE. Perhaps it should be taken into account that in this day and age, an almost symbiotic relationship is required – journalists need to write about bands so that people visit their work, bands need journalists to expose themselves to music fans who haven’t experienced them yet.
In conclusion, I don’t necessarily support either side fully, but I can certainly see the points of each side. If you are able to look past the histrionics and vitriol, there is a rich (albeit raw) debate going on. I urge you to take a look and think about it. That is, after all, what we’re here to do.

The Tale Of The Flute And The Toothed Beast

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